We, wild and crazy kids that we were at the time, decided to go the ‘family bed’ route with our kids. We started off for a day or two after the arrival of our first born trying to get him to sleep in a cradle, with generally poor results. We didn’t have any philosophical problems with sleeping with us, my wife needed some sleep, so: kid sleeps in the bed with us.
We were not shaking our fists at the establishment or getting up in people’s faces with a radical statement or anything. Yet, the response was nuts – we’d get sent ‘studies’ showing that we were practically murdering our child by increasing his chances of SIDS from something like .008% to something like .009%. I tried to point out the flaws in the studies (basically, if you don’t distinguish between sane, stable, sober parents and insane, unstable, stoned parents, you’re, I don’t know, missing some key data) and tried to point out that, even if the studies are valid, the difference is so small as to be meaningless – we’re talking a risk in the neighborhood of lightening strikes and shark attacks. Nope, all this was trumped by their parents never having allowed this, and their pediatrician saying not to do it.
You’ll be no doubt shocked to learn that all 5 of our kids survived sleeping in our bed. We never came close to rolling over on them and smothering them – see, it’s your *baby* there in the bed, if you’re not drunk or insane every natural instinct makes you very attuned to him. A baby is not like a pillow you’d forget is there. But their mere happy survival, along with the happy survival of the other billions of babies that slept with their parents, is no excuse for the terrible risks we subjected them to.
Anyway, now we get to live the whole experience again, because we decided that we weren’t going to send our kids to traditional classroom school. Not only that, but we were going to subject them to a educational philosophy called Real Life. In Real Life, the most important thing to learn is how to get along with others – how to listen, speak, trust, be wary, work together, work around, stand up for yourself and be compassionate to others. Mastering these skills does in fact take a decade or more. Mastering reading, writing and basic math takes a few months.
So, we chose a school where social interaction and responsibility were the key. The family bed part: in order to promote responsibility and social interaction, you have to get rid of all the mandatory classes and ruler/ruled dynamics – in other words, no age segregation, no classes, no teacher-makes-the-rules structures. Oh, sure, there’s plenty of room and help for kids, when they decide they want to learn to read or write or do math (nobody yet has attended our school for any length of time and failed to learn these things – it’s hard to play video games if you can’t read the instructions and figure out how much gold you’ll need to buy the health points and power-ups required to beat the boss, for example).
The funny part here, to me, is that, at *home*, our kids are expected to help out, and do. They also volunteer to help out at church, and take a variety of lessons. In those situations – Real Life – they are subject to other people’s authority and follow instructions. Our kids spend roughly 20 hours a week in structured situations under someone else’s authority – they hardly need another 30 hours/week of schooling to learn about working in structures and under authority.
Finally, just as our babies survived the family bed to become toddlers and kids, our older kids – 19 and 17 – are in college. Whatever we did has objectively ‘worked’ – if K-12 is supposed to prepare kids for college, then whatever we did achieved the same objective as K-12, only with a tiny % of the investment of time and energy in ‘academics’. The dirty little secret: if you want to do it and haven’t been beaten up and humiliated into thinking you’re stupid, you can learn to read in a few weeks; you can learn basic math in a couple months; you can learn to write acceptable essays in a semester, tops.
So, yea, I guess maybe I can see being angry with people like me – if I’d wasted 13 years of my kid’s life on school, and thousands of hours of my life worrying about their homework and studying, only to find out that there are people out there – many thousands of them – who skipped all that pain and simply passed ‘Go’ and collected their $200 – yea, that could be upsetting.